Rashawn Brown of Stovall Street in Houma is only 20 years old. But he has an understanding of the need to support community that is not seen in many people double or triple his age.
A few years ago the well-spoken youth — who has since graduated Terrebonne High School — did ad hoc street preaching to help discourage random violence that at the time gripped his central Houma neighborhood. Risking ridicule and perhaps worse from those whose actions he spoke against, Rashawn did his best to encourage decency, goodness and peace during a quite unpeaceful time. At the same time, in addition to following his studies, Rashawn engaged in special school-related activities including a day as the “judge of the day,” shadowing State District Judge Juan Pickett in court and learning what the work of a jurist involves.
As Houma’s summer melts into fall, with winter not far behind, Rashawn has found a new interest that he hopes might make him a few bucks, and even if it doesn’t, will allow him to be of service to neighbors.
Rashawn is well aware of the importance in these parts of honoring the dead as the sacred Feast of All Saints approaches. Respect for the dead and respect for mourners is something that was instilled in Rashawn by his mother, Schenika Brown, and by his grandparents and great-grandparents. It is these teachings that help him during his current work at Community Funeral Home, where he makes reader the sign-in books for mourners and makes sure the flowers are properly placed so that when the bereaved come or final good-byes everything is perfect. He greets mourners in his black suit, gold vest and black bow tie, ushering them in for services. It is work that he says is very satisfying. But he wants to do more.
So, Rashawn has put himself out as a cleaner of tombs. hoping to aid those who remain but may not have the physical agility they once did, which is required for cleaning and painting graves.
He has been fastidious about cleaning and maintaining the tomb of his great-grandmother Ella Mae Brown, who has rested in Houma’s historic Southdown Cemetery for a dozen years, and he believes everyone is entitled to the same reverent treatment. Without access to advertising, he has tried to inform folks by word of mouth and also on his Facebook page.
All it takes is some bleach, paint and determination, Rashawn says, and being able to help out is worth the effort.
On his visits to Southdown he has stopped to regard the tombs and gravesites of children, some of whom never spent more than a day on this earth, and he longs to make their graves clean as well. Eager the young man is, if allowed, to paint the graves of little boys blue and of little girls pink.
“I want to be able to serve the community,” says Rashawn, who has recruited a helper, Matthew Duet, who lives in the Summerfield subdivision.
Rashawn said anyone who wants help with a grave for free if they can’t afford the work, or who can pay to help subsidize the others, should call him at 647-1939.
“I would like to be paid but I also want to help even if I can’t,” said Rawshawn, who is currently raising money for materials. Even if the cleanings get done after the traditional Nov. 1 day of commemoration, he said, the work is stil important. “I want to do this because it is in my heart.”